What is functional yoga?

Anat Geiger on why functional yoga helps us celebrate our uniqueness.

Functional Yoga practice with Anat

If it works, it’s functional yoga

Functional yoga: it’s taken a while, like most good things do, but it’s definitely here to stay. And let me tell you right away, Functional Yoga is not another style of yoga but rather an approach to practicing. It liberates us for being who we are without excuses or unrealistic expectations. It’s an approach that can be applied to everything we do.

Functional yoga was developed and organized into a system by Paul and Suzee Grilley. It’s based on the scientifically-proven premise that our skeletons, tissues, physiology, temperament and motivation are made and organized in a way that is uniquely ours.

Functional yoga is based on the scientifically-proven premise that our skeletons, tissues, physiology, temperament and motivation are made and organized in a way that is uniquely ours.

This uniqueness comes with the whole package of talents and limitations that constitute who we are. In other words, it means that some of us are musical but bad with numbers, others can run for miles but cannot sit cross-legged on the floor. Someone else might cook wonderfully but not be able to tell their left from their right. Another may bend backwards for fun but hate sports. The variations in human anatomy and psychology are truly infinite. 

Aesthetics vs. experience

Within Functional Yoga we recognize these differences and honour them. Instead of focusing on how you should look when doing a pose – the foot should be here, the knee should point in that direction, the pelvis should align with the front of the mat, etc. – Functional Yoga is more interested in what you experience when doing the pose. Are you feeling the stretch where you want it to be? Are you strengthening the muscles?

In short, is it working for you? If it is, it’s functional – carry on. If not, you need to change something, or many things, until it does. 

Celebrate our uniqueness

It follows that you should know why you are doing a pose and a good teacher should guide and educate you on how to get the best out of your practice. But it is your experience that determines if you are doing something right. Not an external judgement made with the eyes only. To follow general rules meant for people who have different bodies, temperaments, talents and motivations to yours is not functional because a ‘one size fits all’ approach simply doesn’t work. 

I suggest that we celebrate our uniqueness. We spend so much time wishing we were different, trying to be someone we’re not, striving for the body we think we should have… Instead, how about investing some time and energy into the body that we do have and all the wonderful things we can do in and with it?

Let’s celebrate our uniqueness… invest some time and energy into the body that we do have and all the wonderful things we can do in and with it!

With a functional approach, I believe that all bodies can benefit from poses in their own unique way. We can enjoy a practice that is healthy, safe, nourishing, fulfilling and fun – regardless of age, background, body shape or flexibility.

Dive deeper with my EkhartYoga Academy course

Functional Anatomy with Anat Geiger
Learn what functional yoga is and how this approach can help free you from the stress of striving for an aesthetic ideal and instead, practice in an efficient, empowered and pain-free way that honours the uniqueness of your body.

This illuminating 2-hour course will familiarise you with the main anatomical structures of the pelvis, spine and shoulders and show you how the shape of your bones can determine the shape of your yoga poses.

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Anat GeigerAnat Geiger threaded science, spirituality, philosophy teachings and chakra theory through her teaching, combining Yang elements of strength and rhythm with Yin elements of kindness and silence.